As a female consumer and a marketer, I pay especially close attention to how brands choose to position their products to girls and women. Breaking through the advertising noise to capture the attention of your audience is difficult enough, so it’s all the more surprising when I see brands falling back on lazy gender stereotypes. Gender is one of the observable characteristics we marketers use when segmenting our audience. It’s a valuable distinction, but to gain real quality insights we need to look beyond simple demographic information and consider the attitudes, interests and opinions of our audience.
We saw a surge in so-called feminist advertising in 2014—some ads were well received while others created controversy. Overall, I believe this is a positive trend but brands need to make sure they’re being genuine before jumping on the feminist bandwagon. Consumers are savvier than ever and they won’t hesitate to call you out on every social network if they smell hypocrisy. For better or worse, these are some of the most viewed feminist ads of 2014.
GoldieBlox vs. the Big Sister Machine – GoldieBlox
GoldieBlox is one of my favourite brands and a great example of a company whose mission, product and advertising are perfectly aligned. This 2014 video was another win for GoldieBlox which aims to inspire a new generation of female engineers.
Patches – Dove
Dove has been promoting the “real beauty” message in their campaigns for a few years now. It’s a positive endeavour but one that has always seemed contradictory to me since they are selling a beauty product and are owned by Unilever which also happens to own Axe—the crowned king of sexist ads. It may just be me, but this particular video also feels condescending in some way.
I Will What I Want – Under Armour
This Under Armour ad for women is especially awesome because it highlights the arbitrary standards of femininity and existing racial barriers in the world of ballet. I also love how it demonstrates female strength and athleticism without the sexualisation that is all too common in the fitness industry.
Like A Girl – Always
This video reminds me of the Ban Bossy campaign for which Always is a partner. It’s a movement to take back the word that is used as an insult and turn it into a positive. My initial reaction was skepticism. Great idea but it felt a bit like Always was using feminism to sell pads and tampons. However, the campaign seems to be backed up by ongoing efforts to empower girls thorough education so I give them a pass.
First Moon Party – HelloFlo
This is a hilarious follow up to HelloFlo’s first hit, The Camp Gyno. Like GoldieBlox, this is another example of a company with a simple mission, service and marketing strategy designed to make menstruation easier and more fun. It’s a great way to educate young girls about their bodies in a way that’s entertaining and makes people laugh instead of cringe with embarrassment.
Not Sorry | #ShineStrong – Pantene
As Canadian women, we probably say sorry more than anyone! This video from Pantene is a great reminder that we need to stop apologizing so much. As with the Dove campaign, I have a hard time swallowing this message from a company selling beauty products. But I suppose there’s nothing wrong with feeling empowered and having nice hair at the same time.
However you may feel about these ads and the companies producing them, it’s interesting to see these brands finally recognizing the attitudes and demands of their female consumers. They may be driven by profit in doing so, but it’s encouraging that there are some marketing departments that are aware and brave enough to tackle this so-called empowerment marketing. After all, many marketers are women too and they can probably relate to the pressures we all face.